Foster Grandparents at Syracuse Schools Shape the Future and Teach Kids

Apr 19, 2018

A Foster Grandparent holds up a note from a student named Jaliyah.
Credit Sunny Balkin / WAER News

Van Duyn Elementary Students have been getting some extra support with their subjects when seven special visitors show up daily.

The Foster Grandparent Program provides an opportunity for youngsters to learn from their elders and to gain social skills. Grandparent Ellen Kace says she looks forward to seeing the kids at school every day.

“Just being with these kids here makes me feel happy, alive,” Kace said. I look forward every morning just to come here to be with these kids. It makes me feel wonderful.”

Viola Robinsen, who’s been mentoring the youngsters for nearly four years now, feels the same way when she teaches her students.

“I help them on the computer,” Robinsen said. “They know how to pronounce the words, but most time I know how to spell, and we spell together. Before they go home, I help them with math, and I’m good at math!”

The program received a visit from Mayor Ben Walsh, top left, on Thursday.
Credit Sunny Balkin / WAER News

Beth O’Hara, Director of the local Foster Grandparent Program, says the national service volunteer project is run locally by PEACE, Inc. to seniors with limited incomes.

“They have better mental health, their social network expands, and they’re engaged and involved in their community,” O’Hara said. “The children reap the benefit of having another adult help them overcome their obstacles and reach their educational goals.”

Eighty Foster Grandparents participate in first and second grade classrooms in the Syracuse City School District. Mayor Ben Walsh stopped by to greet some of them on Thursday.

“To have them sitting in the same classroom as our young people, giving them wisdom, giving them support, and sometimes giving them love, giving them a hug if they need it – it means the world to them, and I’m happy to be a small part of it,” Walsh said.

More than 100 Foster Grandparents are enrolled in the program locally and also go to Head Start and Daycare Centers.

Mayor Ben Walsh believes in the work done by the Foster Grandparents. "It means the world to them, and I’m happy to be a small part of it," Walsh said.
Credit Sunny Balkin / WAER News